Disaster responseOperation Vigilant Guard tests Arizona disaster response

Published 11 November 2011

More than 250 agencies and 8,000 emergency personnel recently participated in “Operation Vigilant Guard,” one of the largest emergency response exercise in Arizona’s history; participants were forced to respond to two scenarios — a catastrophic flood and the detonation of a ten-kiloton Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) in the Phoenix metropolitan area

Extracting civilians following attack // Source: dvidshub.net

A bevy of state, local, and federal agencies recently concluded “Operation Vigilant Guard,” one of the largest emergency response exercise in Arizona’s history.

Participants were forced to respond to two scenarios – a catastrophic flood and the detonation of a ten-kiloton Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

During pre-operation training sessions participants were only told that they would be dealing with a simulated flood, but in a surprise turn of events, during the exercise emergency personnel were informed of a nuclear detonation. The added scenario was designed to test inter-agency coordination in response to a situation for which they had not prepared

“You have one disaster, and then you have a totally different disaster you have to react to,” said Michael Jazdyk, a public affairs officer with NORTHCOM, which helped organize the event.

“Arizona responders have extensive real-life experience with wildfires and floods,” said Lou Trammell, director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management. “So we developed a one-two punch of catastrophic incidents that—despite the unlikelihood — could happen and would offer an opportunity to educate participants, notionally overwhelm state resources and trigger assistance from outside sources.”

The catastrophic nature of the two scenarios presented responders with the daunting task of organizing a coherent response from such a vast number of government bodies. The drill included approximately 250 agencies and 8,000 individuals. In addition National Guard units from Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Minnesota were called in to participate.

“This exercise is something we have never done before at this level with so many agencies,” said Lt. Col. Jack W. Beasley, director of military support for the Arizona National Guard.

According to the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, the event evaluated different aspects of the state’s disaster-response capabilities, including simulated mass evacuation, mass fatality, medical response, and receiving, staging, and delivering of federal resources.

Officials were quick to point out the necessity of disaster-response exercises like Vigilant Guard. “The more that we exercise and work together and practice together the better we’re going to be when an event occurs,” said Judy Kioski of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management.

The Arizona exercise was organized by U.S. Northern Command, the National Guard Bureau, and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, and was the latest in a series of Vigilant Guard operations which have taken place across the United States in recent years. Other events took place in Mississippi and Wisconsin in May of this year.

The Arizona training exercise had a minimal impact on local citizens’ normal day to day activities, though residents did witness some unusual sights. During one portion of the simulated nuclear attack, Arizona National Guard Black Hawk helicopters could be seen airlifting fake patients to Phoenix hospitals

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